Monday, May 23, 2016

The Bible: Why a Verbal Plenary Inspiration is Important to You

Never heard about a verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible? I had not either but it makes total sense to me. It is the understanding that the Bible was verbally inspired by God and it is the absolute authority (plenary) of His Word. From this view we can make the faith statement that, “The Bible is totally reliable.”

Imagine yourself a ten or twelve year old girl, having been told that your father loved you but never fully believing it or hearing it or even reading it. Daddy has been away for a very long time and never communicates directly. Mommy only tells you that your father loved you and still loves you. She tells you stories and may even write you notes, but they are not his words. You desperately want to hear it from the man who fathered you, a man you do not know.

This is what has happened to the Church. For well over one hundred years, theologians have audaciously presented to Bible students the thought that the Holy Scriptures have been modified by men. For example, they suggest that some man named Matthew took his portion of the ‘canon’ from either another man named Mark or some other manuscript called a Q or Quell.

These theologians are now our pastors, having been trained and are now teaching the people in our churches that the book of Matthew was passed on from someone else. To them, it is not authoritative. They present theories such as historical criticism and source criticism that report about God’s love. These words are not trustworthy because they do not directly come from the original source.

These theories are not just about Matthew, they involve every book of the Bible. These theories promote statements such as “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16 NASB) but they take away the Bible’s profound impact. They also promote the thought that some man (or men) called a redactor modified the text, placing it into the form we now have before us.

Dear ten-year-old girl, please know that when the Bible refers to God’s immense love for you, it is spoken through the Holy Spirit. He is the embodiment of God. He loves you, not some other man or some other deity saying this about God, but God himself.

For example, Daniel 9:4 records a portion of a prayer by Daniel:

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments … ”
There are two ways we can look at that single verse:
  • a man acting as a narrator who recorded that prayer, or
  • the Holy Spirit that took the words of prayer for all mankind.
I suggest to you that the Bible is much more than the words of some narrators which have been modified by men over the years. Instead, it is the Word given to you personally through the Holy Spirit so that you can know His character. This Daddy has not been away for a very long time. This Daddy communicates continuously, for the one who has an ear. He truly loves you.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Abbreviated Lists in Biblical Literary Structure

An abbreviated list is the frequent appearance of listed items in the Bible but not all items are repeated. To put it another way, an abbreviated list is a literary device where the shortened form is representative of the whole.

I replaced the landscaping in front of our house in 2015. I selected a weeping blue spruce for the centerpiece which is surrounded by a variety of other plants: a white pine, a Japanese maple, three blue cloak firs, some cotoneasters, barberries, junipers, yews, weigela, and assorted flowers. When I call this the "blue spruce and Japanese maple plantings", that is an abbreviated list.

In Deuteronomy 13:3,4 (NASB) there is a list of seven statutes:

For the LORD your God is testing you to find out if
  • you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • You shall follow the LORD your God
  • and fear Him;
  • and you shall keep His commandments,
  • [and] listen to His voice,
  • [and] serve Him,
  • and cling to Him. 1

This list is abbreviated many times in Deuteronomy. Think of all seven when you see reduced lists such as verses 11:22 and 13:18.

“For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him,” (v11:22)

“… if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.” (v13:18)

When you discover an abbreviated list, it is emphatic simply because it is frequently repeated. Even the single reference in verse 29:9 is an abbreviated way of stating the entire list.

“So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” (v29:9)

The clue to finding these abbreviated lists is in their extensive repetition.

1. The words [and] appear in the Hebrew text but do not appear in the NASB. If the first letter of a Hebrew word is the character Vav, that is usually the word AND.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Throw Away Your Bible In A Year Plan; Pursue Meaningful Study Instead

I remember the nutritionist stating to my wife, "You have a choice: continue staying on your prescription medications or stop taking them. You may have good reason to continue taking them; discuss that with your doctor. I am not telling you to stop taking them, I just believe there is a better plan."

My wife went from seven prescription medications each day to one, a thyroid medication that she will take for the remainder of her life. She made that choice over three years ago–her blood pressure has dropped to normal ranges, her cholesterol blood work has been consistently good, and her other complications have been under control. She is living a normal healthy life and enjoying those benefits with the help of her nutritionist.

If you are under your pastor's direction to read the Bible in a year, that is between you and him or her. If you have not read the Bible through twice, cover to cover, I recommend reading it in a year so that you catch the big picture. But to many people, a daily Bible reading plan may have stolen your precious time.

There is wonderful, glorious, and exciting joy in digging into the Scriptures, and that is what I propose as an alternative. Make your time meaningful. Renew your time with the Lord.

I have been teaching a Bible study based on my soon-to-be-published books: Daniel Chapter 2: A Workbook and Discovering Emphasis in the Bible. This small Bible study group is helping me improve the quality of those two manuscripts while they learn a new tool. The Daniel workbook uses sixteen lessons as reveals intricacies in chapter two; each workbook lesson draws from the reference book, Discovering Emphasis in the Bible. Both books teach how to make your Bible reading more fulfilling.

Last night I used Chapter One of Discovering Emphasis in the Bible as the basis for our study. I again presented the DIG approach which is at the core of this teaching: Discern the literary structure; Identify the emphasis; and Glean the Holy Spirit’s individual message for you.

We first read Psalm 43, a very brief psalm yet one that may seem confusing. Here is that psalm from the NASB:
1 Vindicate me, O God,
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
2 For You are the God of my strength;
Why do You cast me off?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
Everyone in the group last night expressed some confusion: "Why does this psalm seem to contradict itself?" We then read Chapter One of Discovering Emphasis in the Bible. Not only did they see the advantage of literary structure from that chapter, they understood why a year-long march through the Bible limits their study. That half-hour, or whatever time is allotted, could be much more productive and thereby more satisfying.

If you would like a free copy of Chapter One of Discovering Emphasis in the Bible, please send me an email to Tom at ThomasBClarke.com. In return, I will send you the five page PDF that we studied last night and will add you to my mailing list which announces the publication of new manuscripts. I will not sell or otherwise misuse your information, for it is an honor to send this occasional marketing material to you.